Track and field nearing end of outdoor season

Track and field nearing end of outdoor season

Junior Nadiya El-Amin rounds the corner while competing in the women's 400-meter dash at Fouts Field on Saturday at the North Texas Spring Classic. El-Amin finished in second place with a final time of 56.20 seconds.

Track and field nearing end of outdoor season
April 29
23:41 2015

Reece Waddell / Staff Writer

In February, a winter storm forced the Conference USA Indoor Track and Field Championships to reschedule events. The weather ordeal caused the Mean Green Track and Field team to restructure the way it planned to score points.

Head coach Carl Sheffield was given little choice but to shuffle his lineups, reassigning athletes to different events he felt would give the team a better shot down the stretch. His athletes responded and embraced the challenge. When the dust settled, the women placed fourth and the men placed fifth at the meet.

However, since the indoor championships, Sheffield said he has been looking for that same spark. With just two weeks before the end of season C-USA Outdoor Championships, he thinks his team has finally found its stride.

“We had a really funky winter, and for a sprinter that needs to run fast, it was really tough,” Sheffield said. “I think we have finally worked our way back to where we were in the fall and are in much better shape to do well these last few weeks.”

The team works nonstop from August to May with little breaks in between. During the winter months, the team prepares for the indoor championships as opposed to the traditional outdoor season. Distance runner Kylee Kittrell said there isn’t much difference between indoor and outdoor, but it’s important to know the limitations of each.

“With outdoor, you have weather, sun, bugs,” Kittrell said. “But with indoor, that’s obviously eliminated. The major difference is in indoor you have to run more laps around the track because its shorter, but other than that, nothing really changes.”

Early in the outdoor season, the Mean Green men placed eighth and the women placed fourth at the Texas Invitational in Austin. This past weekend, the men placed fifth and the women placed seventh at the John Jacobs Invitational in Norman, Oklahoma. Sheffield said he was hesitant when the outdoor season began, but believes his team has turned a corner.

“We’re coming back, without a doubt,” Sheffield said. “In the last two weeks alone, our training has gotten better, our confidence in our training has gotten better and we’re starting to believe. We have two more opportunities to run fast before conference and we will take full advantage of that.”

Sheffield said a major part of succeeding in track, particularly sprinting, is consistency and developing good habits.

“You’re talking to a sprint coach, so from my perspective, it’s extremely important,” Sheffield said. “Being able to go out there and play how you practice, it’s huge, especially in this sport.”

The team has a demanding schedule, practicing 20 hours each week. Even on off days, Sheffield said there are athletes who come up to the track to practice on their own. Multievent athlete Dominique Best said there are times when her schedule can feel overwhelming, but it has helped her learn how to manage her time.

“Just being a student athlete in general is difficult,” Best said. “Practice, class, and I work, so there are definitely occasions when I will be tired. But I think it’s actually helped me stay organized and has made me disciplined.”

North Texas switched to C-USA from the Sun Belt Conference in 2013, and has been looking to make a splash not only in competitions, but in recruiting as well. Sheffield said having C-USA attached to UNT has made it easier to recruit and has helped reel in athletes he feels will be major contributors come next season.

“I read something the other day that put C-USA as the sixth-ranked conference for Track and Field, behind the Power 5 conferences of course,” Sheffield said. “So when we pick up the phone and start calling people, they’ll say, ‘Oh, you’re from C-USA. We’ve heard about you guys.’ It’s helped tremendously.”

There have been a few injuries this season, but Sheffield said it’s mostly freshmen who aren’t used to the rigorous training program at the NCAA level. He said it will take them time, but eventually they will adjust.

“A lot of these new guys, they just haven’t been exposed to the high intensity workouts,” Sheffield said. “We’ve set the bar pretty high, and we know that. They will have run in high school or for a club team, but not at this level. You have to really get your body in shape.”

The team will compete in the C-USA Outdoor Championships from May 14 to 17 in El Paso, Texas. After that, the athletes will rest for the summer before ramping up for a brand new season come August.

“We’re going to be competitive at conference. But after that, they’ll get a break, a chance to catch their breath. We’ll send them something in mid-July saying, ‘Get ready.’ It’s a quick turnaround,” Sheffield said.

Featured Image: Senior Nadiya El-Amin rounds the corner while competing in the women’s 400-meter dash for the North Texas Spring Classic last year. File photo by Edward Balusek – Visuals Editor

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